Graham Reid | | 4 min read
We've never done this before, but the thought occurred that while the Beatles and Rolling Stones gained lengthy coverage this year and the list of musicians and other celebrities who had died just kept getting longer and more depressing (see the collage here), the year was dominated by two artists, diametrically different in musical style, gender, age and profile.
We are talking about Taylor Swift (at 33 still relatively young) and 82-year old Bob Dylan.
Everyone will have a different opinion on any People of the Year column, but bear with us as we look at these two: the young and the still restless.
Taylor Swift in 2023
She ended the year on the cover of Time as their Person of the Year, a controversial choice . . . but that's been the nature of that selection. It's never been about the best person (Hitler and the Ayatollah have been among others on the cover) or the most inventive.
In the latter regard it is right to point out that Taylor Swift has invented nothing (other than herself) and contributed little by way of innovation to popular music.
What she has done is become enormously popular, been the first woman artist to be declared a billionaire on the back of a concert tour (which ended this past weekend after 150 dates), has taken control of her own business (notably through her re-recordings of her albums as Taylor's Version, each one topping the charts), touring to sold out crowds, putting a concert on cinema screens for those who couldn't get to a show or even afford a ticket (her highly acclaimed The Eras Tour, now the highest grossing concert film ever by some margin) and – lest we forget – made excellent music.
Now Taylor Swift's songs are not for everyone, but then whose music is?
For everyone who doesn't like her music there are hundreds of thousands who do, something we might also say about our other candidate here.
So hats off to Taylor Swift who seems to be a very decent role model for young women, has taken on the industry in her own terms (and mostly won) and is making music which millions of people get great pleasure out of.
On a personal note we'd add that we've only written about this megastar a few times -- she hardly needs our opinion or career assistance -- but the only Taylor Swift show we have seen was enjoyable and impressive. She played piano, guitar and banjo, sang original songs and at one point had a riser down the back of the arena so she could sing directly to those who were seated in the distant cheap seats.
Hard to ask for anything more.
Bob Dylan in 2023
The restless singer and songwriter was everywhere this year, his past also ever-present.
He's been on his Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour for the past two years and played 75 shows this year between April and early December. He only cancelled one and that was because of the weather not illness.
And in many places he would add in songs from a writer associated with that city.
He was also out there on recordings: his Shadow Kingdom found him (typically) readdressing some of his earlier songs in inventive and sometimes daring ways with a drummer-less group. (It was the soundtrack to the 2021 film of the same name which was made available as a download and rental this year).
There was the Bootleg Series Vol 17, Fragments; Time Out of Mind Sessions (1996-1997) and The Complete Budokan 1978 set (four CDs recorded live at Japan's famed Budokan hall).
His 2009 Christmas in the Heart album was even given its first vinyl release.
There have been touring exhibitions of his art which includes paintings, watercolours, drawings and wrought iron sculpture.
The massive retrospective Mixing Up the Medicine book is an intellectual trawl through material housed at the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma (with photos, essays, handwritten lyrics, posters and more) and this year there have been at least half a dozen new books which range from biographies to interviews with band members, memoirs by those who knew or know him (few could claim the latter) and analyses of his lyrics, songs and albums.
There have also been children's books about Dylan published this year.
We have written about Bob Dylan consistently at Elsewhere, not that he needs our opinion or career assistance!
It's hard to believe that more than 60 years after his debut album – which sold a paltry 5000 copies at the time -- that Bob Dylan is not only still here, but here with such a presence and profile.
Hard to ask for anything more.
Further to the image at the top, here it is large and explained: the people lost so far in 2023.